From Professional Basketball Player to Investor! Meet Nimrod Cohen, Managing Partner at TAU Ventures
Last week we had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Nimrod Cohen, Managing Partner at TAU Ventures, who have recently invested in YOUTILIGENT.
We would love to hear a short introduction and how you entered the field of Venture Capital
It all started with basketball actually. I played as a professional basketball player. During my basketball career, I completed my studies in Law and Business, and launched my first startup (this was back in 2005!). The startup provided investors services within the stock market. Just 18 months after launching this platform, things accelerated and the startup was sold to financial and internet entities. This created a strong desire to launch more startups and grow within this ecosystem. I launched more startups, some succeeded, some failed. I joined VCs, and invested in over 40 companies (such as Yotpo, Houseparty and the establishment of Bringg).
3 years ago, together with Tel Aviv University, we launched TAU VENTURES.
It was a great step towards advancing the university into an entrepreneurial one, with its own investment vehicle. The uniqueness of TAU VENTURES and its greatest value is that it is able to offer entrepreneurs all the benefits and backings of the university. It’s not just about funding, rather boosting the startups with the different and unique knowledge disciplines the university fosters, connecting them to potential clients, more investors, and partners thanks to the university’s relationships and ecosystem, and opening doors for startups with clients at a very early stage. The fund is also connected to specialized incubator programs with the שב”כ and a cyber program together with Checkpoint, Team8, CyberArk and NEC.
TAU Ventures raised over 20 Million USD and the core investors are from the US, Canada and Japan. Its main focus is early stage startups in a variety of verticals.
Did you know: Tel Aviv University, has been rated among the 50 universities that trained the most startup entrepreneurs. Tel Aviv University was rated eighth with 640 university graduates who founded 531 companies raising $7.91 billion.
What do you spend most of your time on?
My work is divided mainly into two activities:
Finding the next startups with high potential: here I need to be very active, network and create relationships with all the different players within the ecosystem: incubators, accelerators, investors. It is important to always maintain presence so that people keep us in mind and are aware of our activities.
Turn our startups into stellar performers: once we invest in a startup we want to help it and accelerate its growth. We support fundraising, company structure, workforce, connections to customers, investors and partners.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love meeting people and am excited to hear new ideas. It’s great to know what’s going on! I also love and am excited to meet entrepreneurs at the beginning of their journey, helping them turn their ideas into an actual company that grows and succeeds.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
There are two scenarios for our startups. Either things go well, or they don’t.
When things go well, and customers and investors are interested in the startup, it grows beautifully and succeeds, it’s easy and obvious to continue with these startups. But then, there are cases where startups with a fantastic team and product are not necessarily accelerating or growing and this brings us to a very difficult position of deciding if the best solution is to continue with the startup or if it’s better for everyone to stop efforts. Shutting down the startup means putting a stop on the team’s dreams, jobs, income. It affects their home and families. These are very challenging decisions and we always try to support and provide new opportunities within these scenarios.
Can you tell us about YOUTILIGENT — how did you meet them, what were your first impressions?
We were introduced to Youtiligent through Hannan Brand of Cornerstone VP who already invested in it. Hannan and I are good friends and colleagues, we have similar views. From our first meeting with Youtiligent we realized this startup was on to something! We easily understood the use-case and value they offered customers, and could envision the potential ROI. The team was great, and comfortable, the technology was interesting and unique, and they showcased great progress with customers.
Can you detail your decision process leading to the last investment in YOUTILIGENT?
Our decision process involves a few factors. We first and foremost evaluate our connection to the team, both on a personal and professional level. Can we work with them? Are they capable of executing and achieving the business opportunities? Second, we review the technology, it’s uniqueness and complexity. And third, and most importantly, we analyse the market feedback, we interview their current customers, and understand the market opportunity from their perspective. This is a very important factor for us. Once we feel a startup answers greatly on all of these factors, it is quite easy for us to decide on investing and partnering with the startup.
Where do you see YOUTILIGENT in the next 5 years?
Currently, Youtiligent is focused on the food & beverage industry. This is a correct decision for them and we expect that in the next two years that they will gain increasing traction in this area. In 5 years time, I believe their technology will be proven to be relevant in additional industries and areas. I see a great future for Youtiligent and the most important part is to enjoy the journey.
Do you have anything to add?
In my opinion, seeing startups as products is overrated. Technologies are dynamic and can be changed, tailored, and find ways to get into the market. What’s important is the team.
Thank you Nimrod Cohen for the wonderful chat.